Harmful cyanobacteria blooms have been increasing in frequency throughout the world resulting in a greater need for water quality monitoring. Traditional methods of monitoring water quality, such as point sampling, are often resource expensive and time consuming in comparison to remote sensing approaches, however the spatial resolution of established water remote sensing satellites is often too coarse (300 m) to resolve smaller inland waterbodies. The fine scale spatial resolution and improved radiometric sensitivity of Landsat satellites (30 m) can resolve these smaller waterbodies, enabling their capability for cyanobacteria bloom monitoring.

In this work, the utility of Landsat to retrieve concentrations of two cyanobacteria bloom pigments, chlorophyll-a and phycocyanin, is assessed. Concentrations of these pigments are retrieved using a spectral Look-Up-Table (LUT) matching process, where an exploration of the effects of LUT design on retrieval accuracy is performed. Potential augmentations to the spectral sampling of Landsat are also tested to determine how it can be improved for waterbody constituent concentration retrieval.

Applying the LUT matching process to Landsat 8 imagery determined that concentrations of chlorophyll-a, total suspended solids, and color dissolved organic matter were retrieved with a satisfactory accuracy through appropriate choice of atmospheric compensation and LUT design, in agreement with previously reported implementations of the LUT matching process. Phycocyanin proved to be a greater challenge to this process due to its weak effect on waterbody spectrum, the lack of Landsat spectral sampling over its predominant spectral feature, and error from atmospheric compensation. From testing potential enhancements to Landsat spectral sampling, we determine that additional spectral sampling in the yellow and red edge regions of the visible/near-infrared (VNIR) spectrum can lead to improved concentration retrievals. This performance further improves when sampling is added to both regions, and when Landsat is transitioned to a VNIR imaging spectrometer, though this is dependent on band position and spacing. These results imply that Landsat can be used to monitor cyanobacteria blooms through retrieval of chlorophyll-a, and this retrieval performance can be improved in future Landsat systems, even with minor changes to spectral sampling. This includes improvement in retrieval of phycocyanin when implementing a VNIR imaging spectrometer.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Water quality--Remote sensing; Algal blooms--Remote sensing; Cyanobacterial blooms--Prevention; Landsat satellites

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Imaging Science (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


Anthony Vodacek

Advisor/Committee Member

Christy Tyler

Advisor/Committee Member

John Kerekes


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes